BadgeDesigns

August’s #ScreenShotSaturday round up

Another month, another bunch of #ScreenShotSaturday posts to look over!  In August we looked at Glyph animations, merchandise and the Summons!

Glyph Animations

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We’ve been thinking a lot about the Glyphs and how to keep the Spell Board interesting.  We have a lot more Spell Effects that will change their appearance such as Burn, Infect and Power Up but we wanted to keep the Glyphs ‘alive’ and so started playing around with animations for them.

Inspired by my love of Puzzle Bobble/Bust-A-Move I drew up a little test animation for the Moon Glyph to be triggered occasionally.  And whilst we are loving the look, it’s proving a lot harder to implement.

So Glyph Animations are on the back burner for now.  We hope they’ll make it into launch but may have to wait for a later update.

Merchandise!

BadgeDesigns

Legends of Gaming Live is coming up and so it was time to order new merch to give away!  This time we are going for badges, stickers and for a very lucky few, T-shirts!  Here we shared the badge designs featuring all our lovely ladies.  So if you are coming along to Legends of Gaming Live, come and find us in the Indie Zone for your chance to win a prize!

The Summons

Promoted now to 6 Glyphs, the Summons are powerful Elemental allies that join you in combat.  On Summoning, the Elemental will cast a powerful spell and then stay with you and power up all Glyphs of their Element!  After casting Spells using 6 of those Power Up Glyphs the Elemental will leave the fight, casting one more powerful spell!

Summoning

Some of the Summons for Chronicles are all new and some are returning characters, so far picking a favorite has been quite the challenge!  The Phoenix, Sun Knight, Djinn, Heart of the Forest and Cthuttlefish all reprise their roles as Summons.  The Reaper and Golem step down to make way for the Moon Moth and Gaia.  Finally Demon Lord Zubzebub has been promoted from lowly NPC to glorious Elemental and is the new Summon for Arcane.

 

If you want to keep up to date with #screenshotSaturday don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

– Leanne.

This time next year…

Glyph Quest Chronicles is drawing tantalisingly near to completion. There’s still plenty of i dotting and t crossing and a spot of balancing to get everything Just Right, but we’re so close.

It’s at times like these when we start to think: What If?

What If this game is a success? Success, in this case, means Makes Enough Money That Our Publisher Breaks Even And We Start Seeing Some Revenue Share. If that’s the case then we can continue this great indie adventure.

But what if it does a bit better than that? What if it brings in money that doesn’t immediately have to be spent on rent and food and keeping Willow alive? What do we do then? I’m not talking CSR / Monument Valley / Pokemon Go levels of cash – although I do regularly play Fantasy House Buyer once or twice a week just in case – but enough so that we can consider it ‘disposable’.

With that in mind, we have collated a list. A list of things to buy to celebrate our Great Success.

  1. A Medium-Sized Pan. We had a set of three pans – small, medium and large. Poor ol’ medium got on the wrong side of a neglected pasta meal one time and had to be binned off. There have been countless times since then that we have required a pan somewhere between small and large and Leanne has never let me forget it.
  2. A slap-up meal. There’s this little restaurant that we keep passing on the way to the local Lidl. It looks nice. Maybe when we’ve got the cash we’ll trick some people into coming over and babysitting whilst we go out for dinner.
  3. A plasterer. Sure, we’ve already got all of the stuff we think we need to repair the walls in Willow’s room so that we can paint them up, but let’s be honest – we don’t have the first clue about plastering. It will probably be a good idea to get someone in to do it for us or, more correctly, repair the botch job we did in their absence.
  4. An electrician. Along similar lines, our kitchen keeps turning itself off. We don’t know why, nor do we feel even remotely qualified to look into it ourselves.
  5. A PS4. Not just a PS4, but a PS4 with two copies of Dark Souls III so we can finally play it.
  6. A PC. Something with a bit of grunt to it that means that we’re not just limited to making iOS titles for the rest of our career. If it can handle Elite Dangerous in VR then so much the better…
  7. A pair of laptops. Leanne’s has finally given up the ghost and mine has almost completely fallen apart, we’re not looking at top of the line gaming laptops here just something we can game jam on.
  8. A slimline dishwasher. I don’t like washing up. I like to leave it until it develops both sentience and a sense of self image before it decides to wash itself up on its own accord. Our kitchen is also tiny, hence slimline.

Such luxuries, much indulgent, list wow. Not what you were expecting huh?

– Alex

DevelopTalk

Develop Conference 2016

This years Develop Conference was a first for us in a couple of ways, it was the first time we’ve demo’d in the Expo and the first time we’ve delivered a talk!  This year we had a number of meetings and an invite to pretty much every social event around the conference, including Pocket Gamers Big Indie Pitch.

The Pitch

This was my second and Alex’s first go at the Big Indie Pitch (first time round I pitched Glyph Quest Chronicles under its then working title Glyph Quest Ultimate), and we wanted to bring along what will hopefully be our next project to see what the panel of experts thought and maybe win some prizes.

This is a great event to practice those pithes in an environment that is not only safe (there’s nothing really riding on this, but the opportunities are limitless) but where you can chat with the judges after and get that all important feedback on how it went and how you can improve!  I was really happy to see some friends having a go and making the most of this event.  Our pitch didn’t win (the game is far too early, so next time Gadget!) but we didn’t go home empty handed having won the business card raffle and taking home a Fire TV and Controller thanks to the events co-host and sponsor Amazon.

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Alex winning some loot!

The Expo

Having submitted for, but failed to get into the Indie Showcase, we were approached by Develop to see if we would like a table in the Expo as they had spaces left.  Seeing as we still have the signage and the iPad Tome from MCM Comic Con, it would have been foolish to turn the opportunity down.  So we dusted off the POS and printed fresh pages for the Tome, built a new Demo version of Chronicles and ordered merch!  If we learned anything from Comic Con, it’s that you need giveaways!  We ordered some stickers to give away at the booth and T-shirts for ourselves and as prizes in the Special Effect Raffle.  The other thing we learned from Comic Con is that location is everything, so we were over the moon when we arrived and could pick a spot!  Turns out being next to the Unreal sponsored chill out area was a good spot!

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Note to self, next time more stickers!

 

The Expo ran on the Wednesday and Thursday, and for those two days we had a constant stream of people coming up to play, so thank you if you were one of the many who had a go, and apologies if you couldn’t get to us to try it out!

As with Comic Con, watching people play and getting their feedback was invaluable.  It was great to see the changes we implemented after MCM worked and as we approach the polish and testing phase of development we were able to get some new insight and pick up on tweaks to improve the experience.

And the Tome was a big hit again!  It’s shaping up to be the best couple of days worth of crafting we’ve done.

The Talk

Last year at Develop Conference I did a micro talk on why games companies should hire parents (ICYMI it’s because we’re awesome), well it was a hit with the crowd and I won a talk slot for this years conference.  So this year I talked about how we got started as independent developers and the three years and three games between then and now.

The talk didn’t exactly go smooth.  Earlier in the day I realised I had built a Mac version of the talk (it’s a game made in Unity you see) and my laptop is a Windows machine.  Disaster.  But no worries, I have Unity on the laptop so I can just build it again yes?  No.  Unity crashed every time I attempted a build for no readily apparent reason.  Luckily Unity had a stand in the expo and I had a USB stick.  Thankfully they were able to do a new build for me so disaster averted.  Almost.  Then I needed to find and borrow a figure 8 power lead as I had no hope my laptop wouldn’t die half way through the presentation.  The day was once again saved, this time by the incredible Quang of Asobi Tech (actual hero).  Sorted then.

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The talk engine needs some work, and I need a new laptop 

Well not really… Delayed by a good 10 minuets and then further disruption as the AV connection was playing havoc with my laptop, eventually the talk got underway albeit rushed and with an off centre presentation.  I would like to thank all those who came along to see my talk and to just apologise that it was so rushed and the picture a bit skewed!  A few of you popped by the booth to ask questions (as we had no time after the talk) and said very kind things about my presentation so thank you for that.  If you were there and had a question do feel free to ask me on Twitter or send an email over, happy to help any way that I can!  Now I need to tweak the talk engine and get a new laptop😦

And Everything Else

Of the talks I attended, Hannah Flynn’s piece on why games studios need a marketer if they want to avoid being the next blog post about how their indie studio crumbled because of lack of marketing stood out as a highlight.  James Parker also delivered an eyeopening (and hilarious) talk on indies porting to console, and Lorenzo Grimaldi talking about getting your game on to Play Station was insightful!  I missed many more than I got to see thanks to how busy we were, so I’m hoping to catch up on those when the videos come around.

One Special Day was lunched on the Thursday evening.  We were very happy to take part and donate all our takings for Super Glyph Quest on Friday 15th July and donate a couple of limited edition T-Shirts to the raffle!

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Special Effect are an amazing charity! 

As with most games industry events it is all about the networking.  This year was another bumper year for that, it was great to catch up with friends, make some new acquaintances and put faces to those I’ve only ever talked to over email or Twitter.  So now I have a lot of emails to catch up on and some LinkedIn-ing to do.

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Rami having a serious go at Chronicles and Bruce backseat gaming! 

Now I have no voice whatsoever!  It was a fantastic few days, we talked a lot to lots of people!  Very much looking forward to the next show we can get Glyph Quest Chronicles to🙂

DevelopSelfie

Develop Selfie!  These guys! 

– Leanne.

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Super Glyph Quest for One Special Day!

Video games industry counts down to ‘One Special Day’ for charity

We Heart Dragons are supporting SpecialEffect by donating the days sales of Super Glyph Quest towards their One Special Day initiative on 15 July 2016.

Following in the footsteps of other sectors such as comedy with Comic Relief and football with Socceraid, the games industry have declared 15 July 2016 as their inaugural ‘One Special Day’ benefit with all proceeds going to UK-based charity SpecialEffect.

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Companies from across the industry will be donating 100% of that day’s sales of one or more games, advertising revenue, in-app purchases, DLC or income from a dedicated activity or promotion.

The event will kick off with a celebration party on Thursday 14 July at the Develop Conference in Brighton. Other activities will include an online auction of rare and collectable gaming merchandise, due to commence on 8 July, and a showcase at the UKIE Westminster reception on 6 July to celebrate the inclusion and creativity of the UK games industry.

The industry hopes to raise £25,000 for the charity.

All the proceeds will be channelled into the work that SpecialEffect do to help gamers with disabilities. Gamers like Tom, a 26 year-old who has spinal muscular atrophy and very little movement in his fingers.

“With SpecialEffect’s help I was able to play for the first time in years,” he said, “And nothing can describe the feeling that gave me. So many things in life are limited because of my condition, but when I play a video game I’m in a world where the only limits are the ones I allow to be there.”

David Cameron has been a vocal supporter of the charity and during his visit in February he described SpecialEffect founder and CEO Dr Mick Donegan as “one of the most inspirational people I have met”. He said:

“You are making an enormous difference to lots of people… bringing together the things I am passionate about, because it shows business can be a force for social and economic good. I would urge games companies to join in whatever way they can to back this man, to back this great charity that is doing such extraordinary work.”

SpecialEffect CEO Dr Mick Donegan said, “We’re honoured that the games industry are being loud and proud about supporting our work in helping people with all kinds of physical disabilities to play video games. Games are an amazing medium through which people make friends, socialise and come together for a common cause. With the help of the funds raised through One Special Day, we can extend a gaming welcome to people who would otherwise be excluded.”

One Special Day is open to all companies working in the games industry. To find out more, visit www.onespecialday.org.uk or contact Nick Streeter, SpecialEffect Fundraiser, on 01608 810055 or nick.streeter@specialeffect.org.uk

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SpecialEffect

The Stable Block

Cornbury Park

Charlbury

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OX7 3EH

01608 810055

http://www.specialeffect.org.uk

Twitter: @specialeffect

Facebook: specialeffectcharity

Instagram: specialeffectteam

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We’re coming to Develop Conference!

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It’s almost time for one of the UKs biggest games conferences and we will be there!

Glyph Quest Chronicles will be on show in the Develop Expo on Wednesday and Thursday – the expo is free so if you are in town do come by and say hi!

Also Leanne will be doing a talk as part of the Indie Boot Camp about how we’ve made the Glyph Quest games over the past 3 years.  Again this is free so you should really pop along🙂

See you in Brighton!

PlayingGQC

Cosplay, Arts and Crafts, Demo Building and MCM Comic Con

A couple of weeks before this May’s London Comic Con, the organisers got in touch asking if we would like a place in the Go Indie Games booth as someone had dropped out.  Obviously we wanted to take up the slot and show ya’ll Chronicles, but this left us with very little time to get things ready for the show!

Not my first rodeo and also, my first rodeo.

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Leanne at MCM 6 years ago in her very best Pokémon Cosplay!

So I’m no stranger to MCM Comic Con, having been to a few as a punter/cosplayer (#geek) but back in those days they didn’t have an Indie Booth.  I contacted MCM a few years back to see if they would be introducing one when we wanted to take Glyph Quest on tour and it was something they were planning on introducing, fast forward to this years show and I must have been remembered as I was contacted at super short notice to see if we would like the space!   After hastily putting together the marketing resources they needed, and buying a new printer so we could sign all the forms, we needed to come up with a plan on how we would demo Glyph Quest Chronicles.

Like I said, I’ve done MCM before and I know Cosplay is one of the major draws of the event so it seemed super obvious to me that I should cosplay as one of the characters from Chronicles!  Yes we needed to finish all the spell animations and get a working demo version together, but more importantly I needed a red ombre wig and some foam board!

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Having decided that the Pyromancer was the Witch to Cosplay…

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Yup that’s a Pyromancer and a 40K Harley Quinn!

 

And as it is traditional, I was of course painting my head wings the night before the first day!  But that wasn’t the only thing we needed to make to help demo the game, no, no, no.  We* decided we should create some sort of elaborate iPad stand to showcase Chronicles (by we I mean me).

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Behold the mighty iPad Tome!

Keeping everything on brand, we made an iPad (Air) holder shaped like a big magical tome, complete with QR code (it is an ancient tome after all)!

For those of you at home wanting to make one for yourself, you will need a lot of cardboard, packing paper and gloopy glue, Parchment printer paper, some fake leather, felt and ribbon!

So we were all set right?  Alex had been busy getting all the spell effects finished and front loading the character so all spells were available, I had made the cosplay and the iPad holder, all the documents had been signed and the media assets sent away; now all we needed to do was get to London and let the thousands of people come play Chronicles!

Stuck in the Middle

Well, we didn’t exactly get the thousands of people we were hoping for.  Most notably because they couldn’t get to us!

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Lets play spot the Glyph Quest Chronicles booth!

At this point I want to give a big shout out to Failbetter and Sukeban (who were at either end of the aisle) for ushering people down the aisle to have a look at Chronicles!  Also not sure why we had the wrong art printed for the backing banner, probably because of how short notice getting all the assets to them was.  So we didn’t get the traffic or number of passersby we expected, but some folks did stop by to have a play!

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Thanks to everyone who stopped by and played Chronicles!

I also gave away a few sketches, so lucky you if you got hold of one, they are very much limited edition!

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If we did it all again…

We learned a lot bringing Chronicles to MCM.  Mostly that you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of a tight aisle but also about how to demo a mobile game at an event like this.

You need a monitor.

The number of people who dismissed Chronicles for being ‘just a mobile game’ was heart breaking (most of these people were waiting to play the game opposite us).  The folks looking at the games moved from one monitor to the next and completely overlooked us despite our best efforts to make the game as big as possible in the space we had.  I got more attention for the game when I sat down and started sketching than when trying to strike up conversation with the people queuing to play the other games.

If we did it all again I would have made a trailer/demo video for the game and had that showing on the stand and hovered about with the game on device for people to play.  Also you need handouts.

This might be super obvious, but with so little time before the show we couldn’t justify the extra for express printing/delivery.  In the 20:20 that is hindsight, it would have been worth the cost.  People asked for handouts.  So if you have a booth planned somewhere make sure at the very least you have some leaflets!

And because we had the wrong art printed, no one knew who I was supposed to be cosplayed as!  I had a number of people ask for a picture (and even more ask where I got the wig from), but without the reference it was a bit lost on people.  So never mind.  We had a great time!

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Another big thanks to Collette and Adam (not pictured) for helping me man the booth! 

What? GLYPH QUEST is evolving!

This whole venture started out as a sideline. It was something to keep a very pregnant Leanne from climbing up the walls with boredom whilst I was out at work every day. When Boss Alien decided to dispense with my services, all of that changed and our little side-project became our lifeline.

 

Now with our third version of the game in the offing, here is a look at some of the things we have done and how they have changed over the course of multiple developments.

 

Core Gameplay

We were quite fortunate in that we were able to nail down our core gameplay almost from the very beginning. The glyph interface has hardly changed at all from that very first example – a hexagonal grid of circles that you drag along to select spell elements. The concept of Opposite elements was also something that we arrived at very early on. Oh sure, there was a brief dalliance with something more akin to Pokemon or FFXI’s ‘renkei’ system, but these were unnecessarily complex for our needs.

 

The way the spells were constructed from said elements started out as a more modular system with each element contributing a more individual effect. Using multiple copies of an element would power up their part before each section would be flung at the enemy for damage. This system had plenty of scope for variance but it was quite long winded and eventually ditched for something practically identical to what we have now.

 

The Aftertouch, Chains and Reversal system fell into place swiftly – I do like a good scoring mechanic – and has formed the basis of what makes our game unique throughout every iteration. Combos arrived shortly afterwards although in their first iteration, the spell parser wasn’t really up to scratch. This meant that the player was pretty much locked to a particular pair of elements for the course of his game.

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Casting spell, killing goblins.

Chain Migration

Only in the second game did we solve the problem of chain migration – that is, maintaining a chain through different combos – but even that advancement came with problems. Combos and Aftertouch didn’t play nicely together with the spell parser often getting a bit confused and decided to cast a tiny, single element spell rather than the big combo with a healthy dose of Aftertouch thrown in. Quite frustrating really. You’ll be pleased to hear that all of that has been well and truly rectified in this third iteration.

 

Pull Glyphs

One of the other refinements comes in the form of how the board is populated following glyph usage. Previously, it would randomly select a neighbour of one of the glyphs and ensure that it matched whilst randomly populating the others. This achieved two things. Firstly, it always ensured that the player had a valid spell to cast (albeit a small one) and secondly, it allowed a player some degree of control over what happened next. Not much control, admittedly, but it did allow the expert player a chance to stretch out his chains a bit longer or steer the board towards a particular configuration.

 

This system went unchanged in the second game but has been revised for the third. In Chronicles, we’ve adopted a much more deterministic system whereby the player can dictate which glyph gets changed into what. It’s quite intuitive really – the first glyph the player touches will become whatever glyph is on the other side to the direction the player swipes in. Essentially the player ‘pulls’ a copy of the target glyph into play. We’ve still got some issues over the presentation of this, but it’s very much an additive thing and the game is still fun even if you don’t fully understand the system. When you do understand it though, it adds a whole new layer of strategy and gives an expert player that much more control over the board.

 

Power Up Glyphs

We’ve also added the concept of Power Up glyphs. These appear whenever the player casts a 4-glyph spell and increase the power of the next spell to utilise that glyph. This was brought in to enable single-element, 4 glyph spells to retain their relevance into the late game as well as introduce another strategy for players to adopt.

 

Elements

The first game had a suite of six elements to play with – Light, Dark, Fire, Water, Air and Earth. The second game increased that to eight by adding Primal and Metal. One of the issues with that move was the fact that the board became quite crowded and bigger spells became harder to cast. We countered that by capping the number of Loot glyphs that could be present at any one time as well as making subtle weighting changes to the random glyph type selector based on the player’s recent glyph history.

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Element Glyphs from Super Glyph Quest.

Summons

Something that has had considerable revision over the series has been that of the Summons. In the original game, Summons were simply an aesthetic applied to 5-glyph spells. They were just a regular effect animation that took a bit longer and did a bit more damage than their 4-glyph counterparts.

 

Aside from increasing the requirement to 6 glyphs, in Super we took the step of making an actual creature to represent each Summon spell and, whenever it was cast, this creature would appear and take your place in battle. Once destroyed, it would disappear and you’d be thrust back into the fray. This system made a lot of sense but it wasn’t without its flaws. For starters, the player is basically immune whilst the Summon is in play and most players would use this time to try and arrange the board in such a way that, as soon as the Summon was killed, there’d be enough glyphs on the board to simply cast the spell again.

 

To address this, we’ve changed the way Summons work in Chonicles. A creature is still summoned (doing massive damage as it does so) but it doesn’t replace the player’s mage anymore. Instead it sits in the background. Whilst present, all glyphs of that creature’s element are turned into Power Up glyphs and, when enough of these glyphs have been used, the creature departs with a Limit Break attack that, once again, does a shed-load of damage. This means they’re still very powerful spells, but concentrating more on offence than defence.

Art Style

One of the first things that grabs our player’s attention is the art style and this is all Leanne.

 

The first version featured bold outlines with a muted palette that suited the medieval setting. The palette was refined for the Asian version and made considerably more saturated and colourful. This version also added a ‘hit’ frame for the player to go along with his ‘attack’ frame.

 

Moving on to Super and the outlines have gone. This is in direct response to the fact that we added the ability for the player to customise their character. A modular system of robes and hairstyles and the like meant that we couldn’t surround everything with the thick outline. The hit and attack frames were adopted from the Asian original though.

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In Chronicles we have gone for actual animation. All characters and monsters are made from composite sprites that are all joined together and animated. This makes the creation process considerably more complicated and long winded than it was before but adds a lot to the look and feel of the game. The characters have much more personality and the game looks a lot more dynamic.

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Two of the new character classes  in development for Chronicles; Heka and Neried.

 

Progression

The system that has seen the most change over the series’ lifetime is that of the player’s progression through each game.

 

The original game was pretty simple – each element you used increased your affinity to that element. At certain thresholds, that affinity would level up, increasing the amount of damage you would do with it. The player’s overall level was determined by their highest level of affinity and the list of available quests would be increased accordingly. All of these quests were assigned to particular locations, all of which were shown on a single screen.

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We like lists.

The second game got considerably more complex. Now the locations were spread over a much larger map that the player had to scroll around and explore. This was linked by a complex ‘tech tree’ of dependencies – each location or quest only becoming available when certain other criteria were met. In addition, the way the player levelled up was… well, interesting to say the least.

 

On the face of it, accruing XP for killing monsters seemed simple enough, but whenever the player reached enough XP to attain the next level, that’s where things got tricky. Each level up was accompanied by a random selection of cards from which the player could select one. This card would give the player a new ability or enhance an existing one. Everything from the power of Reversals to Loot glyphs to Armour to… the list went on. It added a layer of complexity and ownership but was perhaps a little too much hassle. It also presented a bit of a balancing problem in that, due to random chance or the player making a silly choice, they could end up missing out on some pretty vital abilities and hampering their late game play.

 

All of this was accompanied by a whole mess of narrative. There was a large, overarching story involving many, many characters. Plenty of side quests and additional optional story arcs also filled everything out. Each character had a ton of dialogue, which was great fun to write but ultimately was far too much work for us. In fact, producing the content and adding it to the system was what took up the vast majority of development time on this project.

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With that in mind. the third game heralds a return to the simplicity of the first. A list of adventures can be scrolled through, each one holding a number of quests. New adventures become available when the player has completed enough quests.

 

Localisation

The first game was made without any localisation in mind. We didn’t have the resources and had no intention of getting it localised anyway. That is, until Shin from Chorus Worldwide came along and offered to make the Japanese, Chinese and Korean versions for us. What greeted him and his team when the got a hold of the project was a complete mess – a melange of text in all kinds of places. From prefabs and in-world objects to baked textures and hard-coded strings – exactly the sort of stuff you shouldn’t be doing if you want to make it easy on the localisers. It’s remarkable how they were actually able to pull it off when you think about it.

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Yeah, I have no idea what that says…

So for the second game we had learned our lesson. At least, we had learned that part of the lesson. Super featured a single source code file that had every piece of text in the game. Now, when it came time to localise it, all Chorus had to do was translate everything in that one file and it would all ‘just work’…

 

… except what we’d done was increase the amount of text in the game by an order of magnitude thanks to the narrative stuff. But it wasn’t just a quantity issue. Super featured exactly the worst kind of text – it was all pop culture references, in jokes, accents and song lyrics. These were things that were funny and entertaining to us but would be completely lost on a foreign audience.

 

You see, Localisation isn’t just the translation of words – it’s so much more than that. You have to get the context right. You have to translate the intention rather than just the literal. You have to find some local analogy to whatever was written.

 

Despite us making the process easier by putting all of the text in one, easy to access place, we had made it next to impossible by the amount and style of text.

 

Again, sticking with the topic of refinement, Chronicles does it just that little bit better than the other two games. Instead of keeping it all in a source file, an external Google spreadsheet houses the raw text. Additional languages get added as extra columns and the whole thing gets exported as a TSV file which is loaded at runtime. It’s basically the way localisation is done ‘properly’. In addition, we’ve dialled the amount of narrative right back. Currently it’s dialled back to ‘zero’ but we might stretch as far as having each Adventure having some intro and outro text.

 

Either way, not so much with the in jokes.

 

Conclusion

The first game was an adventure, in almost every sense of the word. We were pushing against a hard deadline and flying into the unknown in many ways. We’d never made a game together before. We’d never made an iOS game on our own before. We’d never been staring parenthood in the face before. Through some incredibly hard work and remarkably good fortune, we made a good go of it.

 

The second game was probably too much. Although bigger in almost every way, it lost some of the things that made the original so pure and entertaining. It tried to do too much and wasn’t curated at all from our end. We were also struggling with the aforementioned parenthood.

 

The third iteration gives us a chance to bring the refinement back. To make the whole thing that bit slicker, which is something that’s quite important if you want to make a go of things on the App Store. Willow is also a lot older and more independent, making the parenthood side of things that little bit easier to cope with.

 

Although she has just taken all of the books off the shelf and is now piling them up on the living room floor…

– Alex.

 

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Procedural Generation

As a small – nay, tiny – development team, one of the biggest challenges facing us is that of content creation. We simply do not have the resources to create all of the assets that we would like for the game. It all adds up you know – a monster here, a quest there, another animation, another effect. To make all of these things individually by hand would be prohibitively expensive.

That’s why we’ve turned to Procedural Generation as a way of easing our own workload and letting us concentrate on implementing all of the features that we want.

It seems that Procedural Generation is quite the fashion these days. It often gets trumpeted by marketing as a bullet point or USP. How many titles have you seen on your Steam page that shout about their Procedural credentials? Have you played Minecraft? Are you interested in No Man’s Sky? These are the Procedural Poster Boys. Those bad boys are able to create entire planets and galaxies for you to play in – something that wouldn’t be possible using ‘traditional’ means.

What we’re doing is similar but on a smaller and more individual scale.

Procedural Generation, or PG – as I’m going to refer to it henceforth in this post – is being used in a couple of areas in game.

Firstly, we are using it for the Quests. One of the biggest time sinks we had in the development of Super Glyph Quest was the map screen and the fact that each Quest was handmade. Each Quest had a list of monsters that it would spawn from as well as an insane tech-tree that decided whether or not the Quest was available to the player at that point in time. Needless to say this was both very time consuming to maintain and prone to game-breaking errors if I got any little aspect of it wrong. Now everything has been considerably streamlined, to the extent that all we need to do is specify the level of the quest and the environment in which it takes place.

One of the most fun uses of the Quest PG was the Quest Name Generator. Each Quest has it’s own name which is derived from a series of lists featuring adjectives and nouns that can be mashed together in a traditional RPG style. It’s amazing how many ways you can combine a noun and one or two adjectives together, with an occasional ‘The’, ‘of’ or ‘of the’ for company and come up with thousands of viable quest names. The nouns are all based off the environment type – so Mountains becomes anything from Crags and Cliffs to Ravines and Canyons. Then you just throw down pretty much any adjective you can think of – The Crags of Chaos, Ravine of the Damned and so on. You can even play with the ordering – The Howling Bluff, for example.

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As a side note, we started to realise that most of the adjectives were pretty bleak in nature, so we started adding some more cheerful or neutral ones. These were flagged as such and the generator was told to favour these at the lower levels. People will now start their adventures in places like the Singing Forest or the Cove of Smiles. We also added people or profession types into the descriptions – Hills of the Knight or Rhiabelle’s Tower. Then you can even mash all of the elements together – Parker’s Warm Morgue… okay, some names might be more successful than others.

Even before we decided to introduce more animation to the characters, we knew we had to up our combat presentation game. It needed to look better whilst at the same time being faster and less intrusive. We starting thinking about bringing on an animator to help with the effects – think of the sword effects in games like Strider, Samurai Shodown and Soul Calibur. Each of those arcs would be hand-animated in a traditional style.

But to get someone to do that would take money – we don’t believe in the “It’ll be good exposure” pitch to creatives – and that’s a resource we don’t have. So we turned to PG.

Creating procedural meshes in Unity is something I’ve dabbled with before and it seemed like a simple thing to turn it into creating arcs. Animating them, however, was an entirely new prospect.

The approach was pretty simple in the end. Define start and end locations then add a bunch of points along the way depending on how refined you want the arc to be. The basic ‘spine’ is defined by an AnimationCurve, which let’s Unity handle the grunt-work of the maths side of things. This lets me define the path the slash will follow – curved, straight, angular, wiggly – whatever really. Another AnimationCurve defines the mesh’s profile or width along its length. This is where we’d say whether the slash was pointy at each end, expanded out like a fan or straight.

The mesh is created with all of the vertices along the central spine and, therefore, invisible. As time progresses, the vertices move out in sequence to their prescribed positions based on the profile and amount of time elapsed. This gives the impression of the slash being ‘filled in’ as we go. Finally, once the sequence has completed, we gradually ‘fade out’ the slash by moving the verts back to their starting position all at the same time.

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I even added line draws in the editor that take the curve into account, making it easier for me to set up the slashes. I understand that there are better ways of setting up the curves in the editor, but these all require a much greater knowledge of maths than I have. Either way, this is the first bit of code I’ve written where I’ve actually found myself thinking that I could put it up on the Unity Asset Store for others to use.

Following the success of the slashes, I was inspired to take another crack at lightning. It works in a similar way but the reaction of the vertices is different. I still create a basic spine, but this time the arc is determined by a random number between two constraints that is re-rolled at a specified time interval. Then the individual vertices are perturbed further by yet more random numbers, giving the whole thing a jittery, crackly feel. Throw in some particles at either end and you’re really in business.

One of the things with PG is the mindset you have to adopt. The strangest thing is the feeling that you’re not fully in control. Sure, you set up the initial parameters, but after that, you’re just holding on for the ride and seeing where it takes you. If you’re a bit of a control freak, this is one of the biggest hurdles to get over. But once you do and you start to embrace the emergent nature of it, brilliant things can happen.

You’ll start to look at the results in a new way or find new ways of using the existing system. Using it in ways that you didn’t think of at the start.

By making the slash spine AnimationCurve a straight line and the profile a bit angular, we’ve got thrusting or stabbing attacks. By making the slash fan out, we’ve made our Goblin Witch sweep at the player with her broomstick. Reducing the jittering in the Lightning generator gives us beam lasers.

 

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The possibilities are endless. Which is kinda the point.

– Alex

GoblinProgression

Goblins!

Hey hey,

This week I’ve been working a lot on the goblins so in the spirit of #ScreenShotSaturday I thought I’d show how the goblins have changed over the games.

Not only do we now have a goblin with a beard (thank you Twitter for the decision that goblins can have beards if they are stolen) we also have a gentleman goblin and a plague doctor goblin (not that I’ve been playing a lot of Darkest Dungeon…)!

And there’s more to come!  I’m currently drawing up the Goblin Shaman (one of my favourite goblins with one of my least favourite attacks) and will be adding the big ol’ Goblin Heavy soon.  Then to make the Ice Goblin variants and maybe some more accessories.

 

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So why all the goblins?  Well, it’s all because of the way we animate the characters in Glyph Quest Chronicles.  Having completed the first animation test for the Goblins, I figured it would be easy enough to create what is essentially a ‘Goblin dress up’ kit.  As each part is split up into so many different animating layers it is easy enough to add outfits, skin markings and accessories to the goblins.  Now that I have one base animation set for them I can go in and mix up the layers and tweak the animation creating new Goblin prefabs. all with their own personalities.

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So there’s plenty more to do.  Perhaps I’ll add a goblin jester or a Dark Goblin variant.  Hope ya’ll like fighting goblins, so many goblins!

– Leanne.